November 12 , 2001- Associated Press: Bush Peace Corps Nominee Challenged

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Bush Peace Corps Nominee Challenged

Bush Peace Corps Nominee Challenged

By MELISSA B. ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Peace Corps volunteers say President Bush's nominee to lead the agency lacks the foreign service experience needed for the job.

They are trying to persuade members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to oppose Gaddi Vasquez when the panel considers the nomination Wednesday.

``This is not the place for a neophyte on the job, given what has happened to our nation and the rest of the world in the past two months,'' said Barbara Ferris of Washington, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco and a leader of the campaign against Vasquez.

The U.S. war against terrorism has angered some in the Muslim world. The Peace Corps and its volunteers - 7,000 in 78 countries - can be a good public relations tool for the nation, said John Coyne of Pelham Manor, N.Y.

Coyne, who also opposes Vasquez, said the next director should have a background in international affairs or overseas development to ensure an understanding of the world in which volunteers operate.

Former Peace Corps volunteers have been calling or sending electronic messages to committee members since last week, particularly Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. He chairs the panel's Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs.

Dodd, who has met with Vasquez, is to chair his confirmation hearing. Dodd is leaning toward supporting the nomination, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Vasquez, a prominent California Republican whose nomination was announced in July, served as Orange County supervisor from 1987-1995. He was the state's highest-ranking elected Hispanic Republican and had close ties to then-Gov. Pete Wilson.

Vasquez, also a former police officer, resigned as supervisor after the county filed bankruptcy in late 1994. He currently is vice president in charge of public affairs at Southern California Edison Co.

Dodd has scheduled a witness to speak on behalf of the opponents. Coyne said it was Jack Hood Vaughn, who headed the Peace Corps during the Johnson administration.

If confirmed by the Senate, Vasquez will succeed acting director Charles R. Baquet III.

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